Four Senate Democrats this week staked out their opposition to efforts in the House to overturn the net neutrality rules recently enacted by the Federal Communications Commission.
In a letter to the bipartisan Senate leadership, John Kerry (Mass.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.) and Al Franken (Minn.) warned that reversing the net neutrality order or withholding funds for its enforcement would invite ISPs to play favorites with traffic on their networks and slow down certain services or applications.
Last week, the Republican-controlled House approved an amendment to the temporary budget bill that would prohibit the FCC from using appropriated money to implement the rules.
"Unfortunately, the House has decided that it knows better what is good for the Internet than the people who use, fund, and work on it," the senators wrote in their letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the minority leader. "They claim to stand for freedom. But the only freedom they are providing for is the freedom of telephone and cable companies to determine the future of the Internet, where you can go on it, what you can attach to it, and which services will win or lose on it."
The continuing resolution to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year is awaiting debate in the Senate, which is seen as likely to reject many of the amendments included in the bill that passed the House, setting up the prospect of a showdown between the two chambers once they try to reconcile the two versions.
Apart from the budget debate, GOP members are employing another tactic to nullify the FCC's order. Last week, House and Senate Republicans introduced identical resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act that would overturn the rules. But on the partisan lines that net neutrality typically runs, such a measure might sail through the House while it languishes in the Senate. Should the resolution clear both chambers, it would still face the prospect of a presidential veto.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a particularly outspoken opponent of net neutrality rules, has also introduced a bill that would strike down the agency's order.
In their letter to the Senate leadership, the members floated the idea of revisiting telecommunications law to clarify the FCC's role in regulating broadband providers. But recent efforts to either write a narrow net neutrality statute or more broadly update the Communications Act have foundered. In the meantime, the senators urged that that gridlock should not prevent the FCC from working to preserve the open Internet.
"We are willing and interested in working with our colleagues on modernization of the Communications Act," they wrote. "But that does not mean that the agency should stop doing its job under current law."